A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation
on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors.
(N Y). 2018 Jun;9(3):708-724
Authors: Luberto CM, Shinday N, Song R, Philpotts LL, Park ER, Fricchione GL, Yeh GY
Increased attention has focused on methods to increase empathy, compassion, and pro-social behavior. Meditation
practices have traditionally been used to cultivate pro-social outcomes, and recently investigations have sought to evaluate their efficacy for these outcomes. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of meditation for pro-social emotions and behavior. A literature search was conducted in PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase, and Cochrane databases (inception-April 2016) using the search terms: mindfulness
, meditation, mind-body therapies
, tai chi
, MBSR, MBCT, empathy, compassion, love, altruism, sympathy, or kindness
. Randomized controlled trials in any population were included (26 studies with 1,714 subjects). Most were conducted among healthy adults (n=11) using compassion or loving kindness
meditation (n=18) over 8-12weeks (n=12) in a group format (n=17). Most control groups were wait-list or no-treatment (n=15). Outcome measures included self-reported emotions (e.g., composite scores, validated measures) and observed behavioral outcomes (e.g., helping behavior in real-world and simulated settings). Many studies showed a low risk of bias. Results demonstrated small to medium effects of meditation on self-reported (SMD = .40, p < .001) and observable outcomes (SMD = .45, p < .001) and suggest psychosocial and neurophysiological mechanisms of action. Subgroup analyses also supported small to medium effects of meditation even when compared to active control groups. Clinicians and meditation teachers should be aware that meditation can improve positive pro-social emotions and behaviors.
PMID: 30100929 [PubMed]